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Left-handed prep pitchers possess contrasting styles, similar futures

03/24/2013, 10:43am PDT
By Craig Malveaux

Two San Diego pitching prospects draw comparisons to MLB powerhouses.

Anticipation skyrocketed.

Labeled as the “Game of the Year” Part II, dozens of professional baseball scouts penciled in a weekday matchup between Stephen Gonslaves and Ian Clarkin to observe the much-vaunted pitching duo.

“They’re who we all came to see. Both have been on the radar of scouts for quite some time,” said Jason Mcleod, Chicago Cubs senior vice president/director of scouting and player development.

The two University of San Diego commits, who rank as MaxPreps.com’s No. 16 and No. 21 prospects in the nation respectively, project as first round picks in Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft in June.

Thursday, fifty-plus scouts planted themselves in bleachers behind the backstop of Cathedral Catholic’s baseball field, evaluating the lefties.

“Can they throw strikes, can they control their deliveries, can they command their pitches. That’s what we look for.,” Mcleod said. “We know they can pitch and they have raw ability, but we try to project what they can do at the next level years from now.”

Gonslaves was first.

Looking on, scouts simultaneously elevated their black radar guns in anticipation. The senior Don initiated his wind-up before delivering a scorcher toward the plate.

Thump.

The baseball popped into the catcher’s glove. The pitch-speed counters simultaneously flashed the number 90 in red.

Repeat.

Clarkin approached the mound. It was his turn to wow scouts. Again, the radar guns elevated as Clarkin raised his right knee toward his elbow. He rocketed-off his fastball. Ninety-three miles per hour.

Repeat.

Similarities exist between the two lefties, especially in terms of pure numbers and types of pitches, but both ultimately differ in styles.

“Ian is more conventional,” Mcleod said. “Stephen is more old-school with the rocking motion that you used to see in the 40s and 50s.”

Even their approach on the mound varies.

“Clarkin would have to be more of the power pitcher whereas Stephen is a more finesse kind of guy, if you were to compare them," said Madison coach Robert Lovato. "He goes after strikeouts, painting the black while Stepehen looks for groundballs to help himself out.”

Can’t argue with the numbers.

Through three games, Clarkin has surrendered only eight hits, striking out 33 batters in 16 1/3 innings of work, while Gonslaves has struck out 17 total batters and surrendered seven hits.

The comparisons don’t end with themselves. Lovato and Cathedral Catholic coach Gary Remiker see MLB pitchers in them.

“(Ian) reminds me a lot of Cole Hamels,” Remiker said. “He is the best pitcher we’ve faced and probably the best pitcher we will face.”

Added Lovato: “I see Cole in both of them, actually, but Mark Prior was just like Clarkin: a power guy who can get it up there. Looks-wise, Stephen looks just like Prior but from the left side. “

Several baseball prospect websites provide detailed descriptions of Clarkin and Gonsalves and assures MLB front offices will pull the trigger in June.

Minorleaguebaseball.com profiles Clarkin as the crème de la crème of left-handed high school prospects who could be a top 15 pick.

“His curveball is one of the best, if not the best, in the prep class and he may be the best overall prep lefty in the draft.” Matt Garrioch writes.

“Clarkin has a potential plus-plus breaking ball at 72-75 MPH that looked unhittable and unfair at times. He could be a #2 starter if he commands all three pitches well and sits 92-94.”

As for Gonsalves, his lanky 6=foot-5 frame and old-school delivery projects him as a hot commodity amongst MLB teams.

“His body type is near ideal for a pitcher, which allows him to generate velocity as easily as anyone in the draft,” Garrioch writes.

“His fastball command is very good and he has good poise on the mound. A tall, projectable lefty with 3 potential plus pitches should go in the 1st round.”

In addition, perfectgame.org describes Gonslaves as a “large-frame pitcher who gets down plane on his fastball and has a ¾’s arm slot with an easy leg raise delivery” and praises Clarkin for having “a big breaking curveball that has 1/7 break with tight spin and bite to it and a deceptive change up.”

Both remain unsure about the possibility of being drafted, but Mcleod certainly believes there’s a very good possibility.

“Just look at all the scouts in attendance,” Mcleod said. “That’ll give you your answer.”

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